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Church Discipline and Regular Folk

Below is a letter a friend of mine sent to his bishop and stake president. It was written after the announcement of Kate Kelly’s church disciplinary council, but before the council had convened. He shared it with some friends and I asked if I could republish it, as I feel it is a respectful reflection of the thoughts of many active members of the church.

It is republished here — with identifying information removed — with the permission of the author, his bishop, and his stake president.

Church Discipline and Regular Folk

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Below is the (painstaking) transcript of an interview broadcast on KUER. There are a number of points in it that are worth discussing, but I could find no text transcript to point to, so I created it myself.

  • Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2014, Doug
  • Interviewer: Doug Fabrizio- Host/Executive Producer, RadioWest
  • Guest: Ally Isom – Senior Manager of Public Affairs with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Podcast can be heard in its entirety here: Latter-day Saints and Excommunication, Part II (For the record, I can’t find an interview titled “Latter-day Saints and Excommunication, Part I.” This may be an earlier with Kate Kelly and/or John Dehlin by the same host.)


[radio business]

Fabrizio:
I guess I wanted to jump in and begin with this question, sort of general question of excommunication. The LDS scholar and blogger, Joanna Brooks, who’s been writing about what’s been going on the past couple of weeks mentioned…she described excommunication as a “19th century solution to a 21st century problem” and we received this comment from a listener: “Excommunication does absolutely nothing to heal or improve a member. It’s only use is as a tool of power, shame, guilt and fear.” So I wanted to give you a sense to respond to…first of all…how you’re thinking about the use of the word “excommunication” and how you’re thinking about that term.

Isom:
Well, if I might begin first with just an initial…some context, that while we can discuss process, the church is not going to publicly discuss private matters of faith between a specific church member and that member’s local leader and God. That decision, that process, remains confidential and we’ll respect that.

But, there is one point that I think that—well, two points actually—I think we need to underscore.

The first one being it is the desire of every church leader and member—our most heartfelt desire is for anyone who’s working through personal challenges with their faith or questions through a disciplinary process—that they turn to our savior for answers and fully participate with us. We fully expect them to be part of the congregation and to remain in the body of Christ. That is our ultimate desire.

The second point is that this process is not expulsion and in some ways I hear the conversation framed as if excommunication is a foregone conclusion, when in fact it is one of the options available to that local ecclesiastical leader. But it is at their discretion and…and so I’m uncomfortable when that is the…the…the conversation, where it focuses around the end consequence rather than the process of discipline.

Fabrizio:
No, that’s a good point, but the…the word did come up in the letters to Kate Kelly, for example. And I know you don’t want to get particular about her situation, but she was startled by the word—the word came up to John Dehlin as well, as you say, as an option…

Isom:
Right.

Fabrizio:
…but the fact that it is an option does raise the question about how it may work or how people are to work through it.

Isom:
And I’m grateful for the chance today to talk about what that process looks like. So, first of all, discipline processes are not necessarily expulsion. It’s not exclusion. It’s, rather, an inclusion. It’s meant to be a loving invitation to return to the Savior. And in this process…

Fabrizio:
But, wait, what do you mean…how do you mean it’s not exclusion? If you are excommunicated you are not allowed to pray in public, you’re not allowed to take the sacrament, you’re not allowed to participate in…in meetings. You are excluded from certain things.

Isom:
There are clearly restrictions. There are restrictions around participation, but participation remains essential and we fully expect and hope that person to be in the pew the next Sunday. They have not been “booted out of the congregation,” as some would say.

And, in this process, the word discipline shares the same Latin root as the word disciple. It’s…it’s meant to discern a true follower. Christ taught we need to be disciplined in thought, in word, in deed and it’s how we fully engage as a true follower in the body of Christ. And the process of discipline is never done hastily. It’s not done vindictively. It’s done in love and I have had personal accounts where they have shared with me how deeply profound this experience of discipline was. Where they didn’t really understand what the Savior’s atonement meant to them or how to personally apply that redeeming and that enabling power in their lives until they personally experienced this.

This can be a beautiful, a meaningful turning point in someone’s life. It’s meant to be a loving invitation and it’s something that is done by that local leader in complete love and in…in fidelity with a desire to act in the Savior’s behalf and in…in harmony with Heavenly Father’s will.

Fabrizio:
In…in…in a church statement referring to that idea that discipline has that…shares that same Latin root with disciple it also says that it should not be confused with punishment.

Isom:
Exactly.

Fabrizio:
But why not just say they’re being punished for going too…stepping over the line by saying…too far? Yes, you’re inviting them to…but…but you’re trying to correct their course. There’s nothing wrong with saying that, is there?

Isom:
No, not at all. And that is precisely what it’s meant to be, is to correct their course so that they can align their behavior with the Savior’s teachings.

Fabrizio:
One of the reasons also given for church discipline according to a statement that…that we…that you sent us was to “protect the integrity of the church.” Give me a sense of what that means exactly. And I know you don’t want to get particular about Kate Kelly or John Dehlin, but one of the aspects of what they did and what others have done who have been disciplined is that they went public…

Isom:
Right.

Fabrizio:
…and…and…and I wanted to get you to talk about that.

Is that where they cross the line…is when—because we mentioned this in our conversation with Kate Kelly yesterday, referenced a letter from her stake president who said, “It’s important to understand that you’re not required to change your thinking or the questions you may have in your mind regarding the ordination of women. You can still say that, but you need to make that a private matter.” Is that where she crossed the line? Or is that where members in general—if you want to be broad about it—cross the line?

Isom:
I can’t speculate as to what the conversation has been between a specific church member and their ecclesiastical leader. That’s just simply not my place. It’s not my role. What I can tell you…

Fabrizio:
But being public generally…

Isom:
Where I can speak generally in terms of apostasy, we define it as when…when our members turn away from the principles of the gospel or corrupt principles of the gospel or make unauthorized changes in church organization or priesthood ordinances. It’s one thing to make one’s views known. It’s quite another to actively draw others away from clear doctrine. And it causes concern because ultimately others’ lives can be dramatically influenced.

I think President Hinckley probably said it best. He said that he’s spoken before about the importance of keeping church doctrine pure and seeing that it’s taught in all the meetings and he conveyed that he worried about this, this is something that weighs on his mind as a steward of the doctrine as the prophet of the church. And he said, “Small aberrations in doctrinal teaching can lead to large and evil falsehoods.” So it is something to which we want to be sensitive, that the doctrine—pure and clear and undefiled—is the essence of the gospel. And it is the responsibility of our leaders to ensure it is kept in alignment with the Father’s will.

Fabrizio:
One of the statements you read, I think goes along with what you are saying here, which is that “sometimes” — I am quoting here — “members actions contradict church doctrine and,” as you said, “lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in affect choose to take themselves out of the church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs.”

So if someone had a personal belief that God intends for women to also have the priesthood authority — that’s what [Kate Kelly's] doing, she’s trying to get the doctrine to kind of budge, to move to fit that view — that’s problematic, right?

Isom:
It’s problematic when it becomes something that you are using as a device to…to pull others away from the core fundamentals of the gospel. It becomes problematic when you go beyond the assertion of your opinion and you want to actively change the church and its fundamentals. If I might, Elder Oaks was very clear in last April’s General Conference when he stated uncategorically that the leaders of the church don’t have authority to change things, that at some point disrespectful dialogue becomes replaced with some sort of repeated defiance and a denial of the truth that’s been clearly espoused.

Fabrizio:
Where does it say in Mormon doctrine that women can’t receive the priesthood? You say it’s doctrine. Where is that?

Isom:
The priesthood is defined as…as an office. It’s also defined as an authority. And it’s defined as power. So…

Fabrizio:
Where? By whom?

Isom:
Sometimes we use the terms interchangeably. We need to be sensitive about that. Throughout the scriptures, you know, in the Doctrine & Covenants, in the restored gospel we understand what are the different roles of the priesthood. The oath and covenant of the priesthood appears there. It’s very specific.

Fabrizio:
But my question is very specific—where in the Mormon scriptures: the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Mormon or any other scripture—does it say that a woman is to be excluded from the priesthood? That she has other roles, very important roles, but that one is not for her?

Isom:
I think you wouldn’t find many things defined as “not as” something. It’s proactive defined as something that it is. We know that the priesthood is the power to act…

Fabriozio:
It’s proactively defined as “this is a job for a man.” Women have other proper roles?

Isom:
You see, the way in which you are using the definition of the priesthood is in the offices of the priesthood. There is some discernment, though in the application of that priesthood authority and the way that is utilized. We—through our covenants, through our baptismal covenants, through the temple covenants and ordinances in which we participate—women fully engage in the priesthood in terms of accessing its power and blessings.

Fabrizion:
I understand that.

Isom:
Now, as a woman, in no way have I ever been diminished in…because I’m not a formal office holder in the priesthood. I have access to every single blessing and power.

Fabrizio:
I get that and let’s stipulate that. But that’s not the question. The question is where does it say in Mormon doctrine that women cannot hold the priesthood? There was an interchange…

Isom:
It doesn’t. It doesn’t. You know I think if that…

Fabrizio:
Okay. Because you say that…because…but…but for Kate Kelly or any woman who’s saying, who’s trying to urge leaders to change the doctrine…if it’s a doctrine, it has to say somewhere that they can’t…

Isom:
Why? Why must it be prohibitive?

Fabrizio:
Then why…why would Kate Kelly be in trouble right now, if it’s not a doctrine?

Isom:
The doctrine…

Fabrizio:
It is a doctrine, right? You are conceding that?

Isom:
The doctrine as presently prescribed—speaking to the offices of the priesthood—specifies that it is for men. The offices are to be held by men for the service of Father in Heaven’s children upon this earth.

Fabrizio:
Right.

Isom:
It doesn’t diminish the blessings and value given woman.

Fabrizio:
There are people like Kate Kelly who have seen in the past moments of policy/doctrinal change. The blacks and the priesthood is one that people bring up all the time obviously. So, don’t you think it would be reasonable, to some degree, for someone like Kate Kelly or others to expect that if they push the issue a bit there might be some room for change, because change has happened in the past? What do you make of that?

Isom:
Well, there are a couple of points that I’d like to make there. Yes this is a church of change. We have seen dynamic change over time. That change does not occur necessarily because someone has petitioned or lobbied for it. The means of social change don’t necessarily occur within the auspices of a church or the religion. The change occurs because God prescribes it to be so. So to lobby for that…

Fabrizio:
So all those people who were lobbying for the church to please change its position related to blacks and the priesthood—that wasn’t the thing that changed it? It was God said—at least, if I’m hearing you right—God said now’s the time, 1978?

Isom:
Yes, because at that time we knew there were members of the church who were supportive of that. There were members of the church who were not. It was not a matter of public opinion. One cannot use a mortal lens to assert what is best. One cannot use a mortal lens to assess how the processes play out in the church. Only God understands this. They are His designs and the bottom line is we trust Him. We know that it is His church and He is in charge and in His due time He will determine the timing and the content of any revelatory change.

Fabrizio:
But let me ask you this. There was a speech that, sorry, an…an interview that President Gordon B. Hinckley gave back in 1997. I’m sure you’re aware of it. He gave it to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and there was a man named David Ransom who was doing the interview and he asked, “Is it possible the rules could change in the future related to women and the priesthood like they did with blacks?” And President Hinckley said he could change them, yes. If he were to change them, that’s the only way it would happen. Which is essentially what you are saying, “Yes, it could happen, if God said yes, now the women would do it.” And then the interviewer said, “So you’d have to get a revelation?” And president Hinckley said, “Yes.” But then he said this, he said, “Bu there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it. Our women are happy. They’re satisfied.”

Now isn’t it fair to say there are some women who are kind of agitating for it? So, at least according to President Hinckley, if some are raising the question as opposed to being disciplined for raising that question, shouldn’t they be engaged in a conversation about it, whether they get it or not?

Isom:
No, of course. The conversation is not the problem. It is not what is being said. It is how it is being said that becomes problematic. It is really the spirit of one’s intent and one’s heart that is…that is the challenge and our best example, truly, is our Savior. Numerous times he taught and exemplified placing the Father’s will before his own. And when one’s actions are no longer about “thy will,” when they are more about “my will,” we must really, honestly assess where we are. Are we saying our way is better than God’s way? Do we trust God or are we attempting in some way to council God? And it’s really a matter of intent. It’s a matter of method and conversation. The conversation is always welcome.

Fabrizio:
Let me…I wanted to ask you…I wanted to ask you this question about…it comes from a…we had a few comments about this and I wanted to read them related to the idea of…Kate Kelly said in our conversation yesterday that she had asked five times, I think, to meet with the public relations department and five times was denied. I don’t even know if they responded. She wants to have that conversation. She said she wanted to have that conversation. But she was turned down. Why?

Isom:
I know I can’t really speak to that—it may predate my time—I’ve been on board an entire six months now so I’m not really familiar with any specific requests from her or any of that.

Fabrizio:
But that wouldn’t be an unreasonable request, right? For the Ordain Women organization to say, “All right, let me meet with you and talk about this?”

Isom:
What I can tell you is that right now is such an exciting time in the church. We are 15 million members strong, 30 thousand congregations in 185 countries. It is a time of tremendous growth and that kind of growth necessarily generates a conversation around what is culture and what is tradition versus what is inspiration and revelation and doctrine. And we’re having these great conversations right now, especially around the role of women at various levels. We have in our department—as have other leaders within the church—had conversations around women and their concerns or their beliefs or their desires regarding some of the cultural traditions that are happening in the church.

Fabrizio:
Right.

Isom:
We are talking about those. They are wonderful conversations. Quite frankly, I would not be in church employment right now if I didn’t feel that this was a really wonderful, exciting time to be part of this organization.

Fabrizio:
But Kate Kelly’s group didn’t get a meeting because their proposal crosses the line. Is that…do you think that’s fair?

Isom:
When you use a grammatical ultimatum, “Ordain Women.”

Fabrizio:
“Ordain Women”—that’s your…that’s the problem?

Isom:
That is a doctrinal change. It presents some problems.

Fabrizio:
So change the name. Change your approach. Change your attitude and then you can come on in and talk to us?

Isom:
It’s not for me to say, but I can tell you that there are a number of other feminists and activists with whom we’ve had conversations—really meaningful, really important, really valuable conversations.

Fabrizio:
So the tone’s important? The way you present it?

Isom:
Very much so.

Fabrizio:
I wanted to ask you about this question. This is a big one obviously, and the question is, who’s directing all this? Who’s directing—the church statement is very clear, it says, “Local leaders…”

Isom:
Absolutely.

Fabrizio:
“…have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being mislead. Decisions…” still quoting here, “…are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by church headquarters.”

So, the letter that Kate Kelly received, the letter John Dehlin received—”letters,” I should say—were not directed by church leaders at the headquarters in Salt Lake City?

Isom:
No. The determination around actions, process, timing—those are all made at the discretion of the local congregant leader—the bishop or the stake president.

Fabrizio:
And they haven’t heard from headquarters before they sent those letters related to…to disciplinary measures. They…it was completely—you’re not saying that they…?

Isom:
Let me give you a little context around it because what I’m not saying is that there is no information provided from church headquarters. The information that they receive is standard leadership training that all leaders throughout the world receive as to process or how to…how to conduct their stewardship. It is just more of a technical direction and guidance. But, the individual determinations are made by that bishop or stake president.

I can tell you in one of theses instances where there was…there was the assertion from one of the congregants that they were unable to attend their…the specified time, the question did come back to church headquarters, could we make any adjustment? Can we adjust timing? What are my options there? And they were told that they could do it by phone and they were even offered a video conferencing capacity that would be secure and confidential as well. Those…that flexibility is within protocol.

Fabrizio:
Sure.

Isom:
And it’s sort of that…those kinds of process and protocol questions that there is some conversation back and forth—necessarily so—this is a highly sensitive matter and most…

Fabrizio:
Of course. But…but you know what’s out there. You know that out there that people are saying this is – the church is…

Isom:
A conspiracy?

Fabrizio:
Well, not…not a conspiracy. It’s a purge. That you’ve got people, they’re pushing a little, Kate Kelly is pushing too hard, John Dehlin’s pushing—they’re not the only ones, there are a number of them in the Mormon blogosphere, you may or may not be familiar with it—that are raising, you know, questions that are often critical…

Isom:
More familiar these days than I used to be.

Fabrizio:
I’ll bet. I’ll bet. But that the church is like, all right we’re down. We’ve had enough of this. We need to throw a brushback pitch. They’re crowding the plate. We need to get them back in line. And that’s the sense of it.

And on the church website there’s a reference to a leadership training conference. Elder M. Russell Ballard and two other general authorities attended. This is a month ago or so. They went to northern Virginia. And others have talked about that in that meeting—and we’re talking about Elder M. Russell Ballard, quorum of the twelve apostles, so it’s a significant—and he actually there while having this training session with bishops and stake presidents about the concerns that some of the brethren have and in specific he mentioned Ordain Women, in specific he mentioned…Kate Kelly’s name was referenced as well in response to a question that came apparently from one of them. Now isn’t it reasonable to expect that a stake president who is sitting there in the congregation, or a bishop, wouldn’t take that to heart and then a couple of weeks later she gets this letter. I mean, isn’t that reasonable?

Isom:
You’re connecting dots that aren’t there. But it is part of a standard protocol…

Fabrizio:
How are they not…how are they not there?

Isom:
Because you’re…you’re making an assumption that I simply can’t speak to. You know I don’t know what’s in the mind of that local leader. I don’t…you’re asking me to speculate about his intention and I can’t do that.

Fabrizio:
Got it, got it, got it…okay…then I won’t…good…then I won’t ask you to do that. Did M. Russell Ballard go and conduct a training session in Virginia in May?

Isom:
I’d have to check his calendar. I assume yo’ve got good facts there. So, you know I’m not going to deny that we do these trainings that are sensitive and we’re very much aware of their relevance. It would be naïve to assume otherwise.

Fabrizio:
Sure. Right, right.

Isom:
We are leaving it up to the discretion of that leader to act in the Savior’s behalf and to conduct themselves as prompted by the spirit in how they apply the process. There is in no way an implied wink, wink, now’s the time, take action. I have been in more than one meeting where a member of the Quorum of the Twelve has explicitly reiterated to both staff and other leaders present that those at church headquarters are in no way to impact outcomes or to influence these processes inappropriately. There is actually a high degree of sensitivity around that and very much a hands-off approach. Let us support you but we will not tell you what to do.

Fabrizio
But see this…?

Isom:
It’s a really delicate act isn’t it? It’s a difficult walk at times.

Fabrizio:
It is, but it raises…the second question is this, why not? Why wouldn’t church headquarters want to have a say in the process that has the potential to affect the public image of the church—which it is—why wouldn’t leaders from headquarters want to assist a lay leader who may have the ecclesiastical authority to act but maybe not the temporal skill set to deal with something so high-profile and so explosive as this?

Isom:
They do provide ecumenical support and assistance but it comes back to your other question about priesthood and offices of the priesthood and it’s very specific that it is within the purview of that bishop or that stake president—and only their purview—to be that judge in Israel and make that determination. It is their decision alone.

Fabrizio:
So if Kate…I’m not going to even say her name. If somebody is excommunicated—if it goes that far—or disfellowshipped or whatever—because there are a range of possibilities here—that doesn’t have to be signed off on by headquarters at church? That is completely within the purview and the stewardship of local leadership?

Isom:
It is and, moreover, it’s in the purview of the individual themselves. Let’s make sure we’re clear on one thing here. The individual chooses how this process progresses. There is in no way that a letter is a complete surprise to an individual. They have been in months-long conversations with their local leader. They know that this process takes time. It is never harried. It is never rushed. It is intentional and it is done in a loving way. It is never an ambush. It’s not vindictive and to assert otherwise is misleading.

These people in any of these processes—a disciplinary process—they have choices. It is their choice to remain within the congregation. It is their choice to remain in the body of Christ. It is there choice whether or not they listen to the promptings of the Spirit and align their behavior with the Savior’s will.

Fabrizio:
But…but the choice is then to…keep your mouth shut about this particular thing or stop being so public about this particular thing? That is…they do…they do have to make that choice?

Isom:
I can’t…I can’t say that that’s the criteria.

Fabrizio:
Well, whatever it might be.

Isom:
That’s between them and their bishop and…and God.

Fabrizio:
We should take a break.

Isom:
Let’s!

[radio business - break - radio business]

Fabrizio:
Is there…is there an internal discussion going on that you’re aware of among the leaders of the LDS church—the first presidency, the governing first presidency and the quorum of the twelve apostles—related concern about, you know, the Mormon blogosphere, the questions raised about history, you know? Is there some concern going on among the leadership of the church? Are they worried about these kinds of things?

Isom:
Not that I’m aware of. In fact, quite the contrary. I think they recognize the internet and the information available as an amazing tool, a powerful tool…

Fabrizio:
Wait, wait, wait. You’re saying they’re not…they’re not worried…they’re not worried about it?

Isom:
Well, that’s not…let me…let me finish.

Fabrizio:
Sorry go ahead. Yea, yea, you should finish.

Isom:
And…and to…and it…it’s not truthful to assert that they’ve—I know in some blogs they’ve said that they’ve been discouraged form blogging. Church leaders are not asking people not to blog and they’re not attacking the rights of this, of honest explorers of faith to…to have these conversations in the so-called Bloggernacle. In fact, it was Elder Ballard in a speech in Hawaii several years ago who encouraged members to share their faith on the internet. So, there’s actually been an encouragement.

I think it’s really…it goes back to that question of it’s not what you’re saying. It’s how you’re saying it. It can be a really raucous place, the Bloggernacle. It can be a place where identities are foggy and assertions are a little loose. And we just ask that everyone engage with civility, with honesty, with openness.

Having questions is the very foundation of the restored gospel. Joseph took questions into the grove. It is…it is what drives one’s testimony, to ask the right questions. So exploring questions, having doubts, discussing issues is all completely not just important but welcome and invited and expected. But let’s do it in the right tone, with the right spirit.

Fabrizio:
I wanted to ask you about…there…one of those things…assertions that’s out there in the so-called Bloggernacle are these things is the idea that there’s a power vacuum within Mormonism going on right now, and that there is, because of that, that the public affairs department of the church is sort of stepping in and sort of pushing leadership to act, to sort of squelch some of these more aggressive voices like Kate Kelly’s, like John Dehlin’s, and others’.

Michael Otterson, your boss—I guess he’s your boss, right?

Isom:
He’s my boss.

Fabrizio:
He’s over public affairs. His name came up yesterday in our conversation with Kate Kelly and she talks about this. And I want to play of clip of it because I want you to respond to this question because it is certainly out there—this idea that it’s…a lot of this disciplinary action or this move to squelch what might be dissent is coming from your department in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here’s Kate Kelly:

I think in every institution—especially large institutions—there’s a layer between the people in the general membership and the leaders at the top and in our case that happens to be the public affairs department of the church led by Michael Otterson. And so far they’ve been the only ones to respond.

So, I think I’m very justified in saying that they’re…they’re the ones between us and the church leaders and their responses have gotten increasingly negative, increasingly aggressive, and, again, that comes back to the fact that the most threatening part about Ordain Women is that we are reverent, that we are respectful, that we are faithful, and that we will continue to be.

How do you respond to that? Have you heard that assertion? Clearly that can’t be new to you, this idea that this is being directed not necessarily from within but maybe from, you know, church bureaucrats on the outside of the inner circle?

Isom:
Well, first let me be clear that public affairs does nothing in isolation or insulation from our church leaders. We act at their explicit direction. In fact, we have a number of them who chair a committee, who sit in council with us regularly and are well aware of our efforts. They’re well aware I’m here, today. And they are well aware of what the message would be going forward.

We do nothing in isolation. And the…to underestimate the understanding of our leaders is…is a mistake because I…I…their hearts are in the right place and this is about making sure that those who participate in the church as members—as followers of the Savior—have undiluted and accurate information coming from church leaders.

We work very hard to make sure that it’s available in thousands of web pages and many sources, so public affairs work in the church is an interesting dynamic, but it is not one that is separate and apart from leadership. It is actually a First Presidency assignment and we work in concert with them very closely.

Fabrizio:
The…here’s an email that came or a question that came from Christine who writes, “Elder Whitney Clayton is reported to have said”—and this is a reference to a story reported by KUTV news and it’s…it’s I think the context for it is that meeting we were discussing earlier in Virginia, that Elder Clayton accompanied Elder Ballard and that he publicly made this particular pronouncement about Ordain Women, that website and that organization we’ve been talking about—Christine says, “Elder Clayton is reported to have said that, ‘Publicly advocating for women’s ordination is an act of apostasy.’” And then she writes, “Because we live in a culture where the lines between public and private seem to be more fuzzy all the time, it seems more important to know what working definition of ‘public’ members can use in expressing their opinions about church doctrine. Is a Facebook page public?” she writes, “or is a blog post? A profile on the Ordain Women website, is that…is that public? How—here’s the question—how and where may a member express doubts or opinions in good faith?”

It seems like what you were saying before is, “Do it wherever you want, but use the right tone, use the right questions?”

Isom:
Yeah, absolutely. It is really is a personal question. I love what one blogger wrote to us recently when he said, “When I sit down, I am prayerfully contemplative and intentional about what I write. I recognize words have power. I want to bear testimony pure and clear. I want to share exactly what Elder Ballard characterized as my…my testimony on the internet in a way that reaches so very many. I take that stewardship…I take it seriously.”

Fabrizio:
But what if you believe—as some women do—that it’s time for the church to give women the priesthood? Where do you express that?

Isom:
There are many avenues to express that and discuss that.

Fabriozio:
Where? In public?

Isom:
No one’s questioning your ability to discuss it in a congregation, in a Sunday school class, in Relief Society class…

Fabrizio:
In a congregation? In a congregation a woman can stand up say that?

Isom:
She can certainly have the conversation. In my Relief Society we can. I love what Sister Burton just said this very last Sunday, she talked about women…

Fabrizio:
Now remind us who Sister Burton is?

Isom:
Sister Burton is the Relief Society general president. She’s a wonderful example. She travels the world. She meets thousands of women and has very personal conversations with them. And she says in this really personal way…I…women shoulder burdens. Women – we come from so many backgrounds, but we have to be each other’s safe space. It has to be through one another that we can have these conversations.

Fabrizio:
So it’s okay for a woman in a Relief Society meeting to stand up and say—you know within the proper context of the lesson or whatever it might be…

Isom:
Yea, respectfully, or course…

Fabrizio:
…respectfully, “Hey sisters, let’s talk about the possibility that it’s time now for church leaders—like they did with the priesthood and blacks—to change that. I mean, there were lessons from history where women reportedly gave blessings and we did have this power and it sort of went away from us and let’s talk about that.”

The church is cool with that?

Isom:
The conversation is welcome. We’ve had a similar conversation in my Relief Society in Kaysville, Utah. We had a similar conversation about gay marriage in our Relief Society. My daughter in Palo Alto just had a very interesting conversation this very last Sunday. We have those conversations. It is a safe place.

Fabrizio:
So it was just the declarative, “ordain women,” that got Kate Kelly into trouble?

Isom:
You know, I’m not going to speculate where the line was. You seem to ask me repeated questions about, where is this line? And I get it, Doug, I know what you’re trying to drive at. It is not for me to say. It is not for me to say. It is between Kate and her bishop and Heavenly Father to determine where that line is. Because I don’t know her heart and her bishop knows better than anyone else. That is his stewardship.

Fabrizio:
But she’s got a website that’s raising that question. So she could do it in a Relief Society meeting, but she can’t do it on a website?

Isom:
You know, when you start to…when you start to recruit people to participate in something that is contrary…

Fabrizio:
But aren’t you doing that in a…in a meeting when you’re raising these kinds of questions? So, so that’s the…

Isom:
A conversation is not recruitment. A conversation, a dialogue, asking questions—that vastly different than an organized effort with six discussions.

Fabrizio:
Okay, so I’m not sure if you want to respond to the particulars of Elder Clayton’s reported comment that this, in effect, is apostasy. Can…can you say that it is? Associating with OrdainWomen.com is apostasy? Can you answer that?

Isom:
I’m not sure that I can answer that question. It really, it depends on where that person is in their heart. What they’ve explicitly done and…

Fabrizio:
So for some it would be okay to go on that website and participate?

Isom:
What do you categorize as participation? To read through their materials? To listen to their discussions or to, more specifically, post…

Fabrizio:
To create a profile. To create…just…let’s just say that. Someone who goes on OrdainWomen.com and creates a profile. Is that an act of apostasy?

Isom:
You know, I’m not really prepared to answer that question. It’s not my determination.

Fabrizio:
Then why…fine. But why then did Kate Kelly’s parents get their temple recommends removed for supporting their daughter and/or creating a profile on that website?

Isom:
You know, I can’t answer that question because that’s between them and their bishops.

Fabrizio:
So the church…so there’s no…so you can’t answer broadly…so…so…the question being…

Isom:
Isn’t that the beauty of all of this?

Fabrizio:
But isn’t it confusing?

Isom:
That it can’t be some general, broad brush, here, that it is individually applied.

Fabrizio:
But there’s either a rule or there isn’t.

Isom:
Either the Savior knows you or he doesn’t.

Fabrizio:
So you have to pray – receive some kind of spiritual revelation as to whether or not you should participate on this website of this woman who may or may not be excommunicated, right?

Isom:
It would be my hope that anyone expressing an opinion in a public forum would be prayerful about that opinion. And that they would pursue inspiration. And if they are…if they’ve…where they’ve crossed the line is in the advocacy of a position contrary to church doctrine.

We’ve clearly defined what apostasy is. We’ve clearly defined that it is seeking something contrary and then recruiting others. It’s one thing for me to say here’s how I feel. It’s another thing to say you should, too.

[radio business - break - radio business]

Fabrizio:
So I wanted to get a sense of – I wanted to play a clip, an excerpt from a speech given by President Dieter Uchtdorf who is in the governing First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he addresses this broader question about those who have doubts. I think it’s some thing that you’ve mentioned today. But it’s something that you…something that you often hear referenced by those of us who are raising these kinds of questions about whether there is a place for them within the church itself. Here, this is from an October 2013, General Conference address. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

To those who have separated themselves from the church I say, my dear friends, there’s yet a place for you here. Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.

Some might ask, but what about my doubts? It is natural to have questions. The acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the church who at one time or another have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith, even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things that are not seen but which are true.

So I wanted to get to that. This question, this was, I think, for a lot of people within the Bloggernacle, as you put it, this was an important speech. It mentioned that there could be a place within Mormonism, which is often defined as just a place, at least some people see it as either, look, you’re orthodox in your belief and your perspective, or you’re not. And if you’re not, well don’t bother. There are other places you can go. And I think what people were hearing there from President Uchtdorf was that, no, there is a place here. Could you comment on that and your sense of that?

Isom:
Well, the Savior’s gospel is…is one of inclusion and he…he so beautifully points out that this religion was founded on asking really hard questions and not having all the answers. And those questions are so fundamental to learning. I love what he said, there, about faith because within one’s earnest questions lay the seeds of faith. And the bottom line is this gospel of our Savior—this restored latter-day gospel—has the answers to so very many questions:

Who am I and why am I here and where am I going? And we acknowledge there are some questions only God can answer and we acknowledge that everyone is on their own very individual path, progressing in their own individual way. And we have to do a better job of being patient and loving and Christlike with one another as we each progress on that path. To judge is not our place. To make a determination about another person’s place on that path is not our place. Occasionally, it’s within our stewardship, but generally speaking it is ours only to encourage and to love and support and strengthen.

It’s why we participate in this community of Christ in these congregations. We find hope and strength and peace. When I affiliate with my neighbors on a Sunday or throughout the week I find strength in watching my neighbor battle bone cancer. I find strength in watching another neighbor wrestle with a child with addictive issues. I find peace in the spirit I find there. I find renewal in the spirit I find there.

That is what the gospel has to offer us and being on that path is what counts. Going in the right direction is what counts. And understanding what the Savior does for us, really believing Jesus Christ—not just believing in him, but believing his words—that he will indeed restore us and make us whole. Believing him is what makes the difference. And if we do that—if we understand the atonement makes all well—at the end of the day, wherever that person is on their path, the atonement is going to rectify the situation. We’re all going to be…return as brothers and sisters to God’s presence again.

Fabrizio:
I want to ask you – so you’ve been in this now job six months?

Isom:
Yes.

Fabrizio:
So you don’t have to share any, sort of, private conversations that you’re having there within the Department of Public Affairs, but what does the church figure, or where…how do you assess the public relations image of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now?

There are a lot of controversial issues that you’re facing, lots of questions being raised and I know some are probably thinking about the questions of church history that are being raised, that people have access to that raise questions about the story that you often hear in Sunday school, questions obviously about the LGBT community, about gay marriage, same-sex marriage—obviously those questions are being raised.

Now you’re in the spotlight again, related to two prominent activists who have been threatened by their local leaders, whether or not that had anything to do with church headquarters—which you say it didn’t—but you’re in the spotlight again. How are you assessing your…the…the public image of the church, the perception? What do you think people think? And…and when you were brought in to do this job…

Isom:
Hold on I need to write this all down.

Fabrizio:
Yeah, write it down. It’s like a six part question, but the question’s pretty basic, given all of that context—lots of controversy—lots of questions – what do you figure the image of the LDS church is these days, more broadly? Not the message of the church, what’s the image? What do people think of the church? The good and the bad?

Isom:
It’s such an interesting question, Doug, and it’s one that I have contemplated for the last few months, more in depth, of course.

It is an amazing time to be on this planet with the advantages of electronic, immediate communication. It makes sharing the truth in a vibrant, real way more possible than ever, more personal than ever and that is so exciting to share the truth.

It also means there is more cacophony. There is just more chaos as back noise. And we have to help filter some of that out. It means it’s more incumbent upon us as ever to be good consumers of information and discern truth. So it’s…it’s a fascinating time. I think the church is pragmatic in understanding we don’t exist in isolation. We are a player in terms of the world…the world is a community. We understand that our members make a difference in local communities. We make a difference in neighborhoods.

Fabrizio:
But are you seen as stodgy? As too conservative? As, you know, lead by old men who are “out of touch?”

Isom:
Absolutely…there are old stereotypes that need to be redefined and I think…because they are simply not true. I think that they’re based on assumptions and the value of this tremendous amount of information is that stereotypes can be broken down and people can see that these fifteen men who sit in council really love us and care about us and agonize over the future of this planet and God’s children.

Fabrizio:
So you’re…you’re…you’re going to hate this last question because I’m going to mention Kate Kelly again and you don’t want to get specific about her, but…

Isom:
You are a focused man.

Fabrizio:
Well here’s the thing, I mean, she was on the program yesterday and she expressed this: aside from this one issue which is, it is that issue, this incredible devotion to her church. It’s the thing that she says is so special about her is that she’s a Mormon. “That’s my thing, I’m a Mormon. That’s the thing.” She’s defined by that.

Isom:
Yeah, I get that.

Fabrizio:
Wouldn’t it be a shame if this impasse that she has, this question that she keeps raising, were to cancel all that out and she were to be…have to leave the church. Wouldn’t that be a shame?

Isom:
It truly would be. It’s her choice.

Fabrizio:
Ally Isom thank you very much for joining us.

[radio business]


 

If you see any mistakes in the text, please let me know in the comments. If you can give the minute:second mark in the audio that would be very helpful.

If you have found another transcript already published, please don’t tell me. I might do myself in.

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Faithfulness Doesn’t Look Like That

I started this post on April 9th, but never had the heart to finish it. Maybe now I do.

Faithfulness Sneer

Last fall I wrote a post titled A Christlike Response to Radical Mormon Feminism. I’m not part of the Ordain Women group — because I have some differing opinions on outcome/approach — but I see them as my sisters in the gospel, worthy of love, respect, and consideration. And, as you probably know, I’m outspoken on gender issues in the church because I think we have far, far to go in that respect.

As the Mormon church’s gender relations have become more heated, the rhetoric often spins out of control. What surprised me, however, is that the vitriol within the church comes so overwhelmingly from those who claim to be the “faithful” who are “standing for truth and righteousness.”

I’ve read and read and read articles, posts, pages and sourced quotes directly from actual members of the Ordain Women movement and have seen almost nothing that wasn’t qualified, measured, and respectful. A few exceptions, of course, but not many have crossed my screen.

It may be that my anecdotal experience is extremely unusual. I’m willing to consider that idea and to see real, counter-examples. But I tend to believe that those who are part of Ordain Women have made a thoughtful decision to respond exclusively with Christlike regard for the other parties. Sometimes the difference is so stark that I’m reminded of the civil rights activists who”protested” that status quo by sitting at the “whites only” lunch counter. They sat quietly and politely while they were cursed at, spit upon, had food poured on them, and worse.  [click to continue…]

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There is Room for You Here

Somewhere along the line, I must have identified myself as a Mormon feminist – for in the 24 hours that have passed since Kate Kelly’s excommunication was announced, I have received multiple messages from various friends, asking, “Are you okay?”

Two things. First, I am not an Ordain Woman supporter. Never was. I don’t agree that women need the priesthood in order to make great strides in having a more meaningful presence in the church. I don’t support some of the methods OW uses to be heard.

Second, no, I am not okay. I am incredibly sad about this turn of events.

There is Room for You Here

While Kelly’s bishop laid out the reasons for excommunication rather well, and I can’t say that I disagree with some of his logic, the question I ask myself is this: “Is the church better with or without Kate Kelly?” and I say it is better with her. She is an intelligent, faith-filled woman who wants to have a discussion about something I personally don’t agree with but believe she has every right to ask about. Her methods might not have been what I would have chosen, but the issues she is bringing up in regards to equality are important. There has not been nearly enough dialogue going on about ways women can be more involved in the church.

In my opinion, there is so much talent and leadership that is not able to reach its full potential in the current policies and procedures of the church. Note I did not say in the doctrine of the church — but in the policies and procedures of the church. There are things that can and should change. We have discussed many of them here before. [click to continue…]

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Supporting Your Children in Their Dreams

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of New York Life. All opinions are 100% mine.

A good friend of mine used to joke about her four kids:

I need one doctor, one lawyer, and one accountant. The other one pick what s/he wants to do.

Sam and I have six children and they are all over the map in what they are most interested in — even within a single individual. One daughter is a computer tech wizard and a competitive ballroom dancer. Another loves anything to do with animals and plants. A couple of our children love nothing more than musical theater. One son loves games and computers and surfing. Another likes anything involving lots of people.

While we may have particular dreams or goals in mind for them, those ideas must always be modified or tempered as a child’s true genius and passion begins to emerge.  [click to continue…]

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Videos of Jesus Christ – One Day at a Time

Don’t Tell Me About Magical Genie Prayer

Usually I hate sermons like this. Particularly when they come from general authorities.

One Day at a Time

Years ago I read a book by Elder Gene Cook titled Receiving Answers to Our Prayers. I loved the book and poured over it again and again, sure its pages unlocked the magical key to answers from God. I mean, if Elder Cook and his family can find every lost dog, wallet, and hat, if they can have all last-minute financial needs met — just by praying good and hard — then we all can! I was full of hope.

But it didn’t work out that way for me. [click to continue…]

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My mom died 11 years ago. Once my dad  was unable to teach his BYU math classes, unable to be called to service missions, unable to drive, and unable to follow detailed conversations, he decided his time had come. He was ready to move on. He missed his sweetheart and wanted to be reunited with her ASAP.

His body didn’t exactly go along with the plan.

More to Life Than Now

On April 28th, he was admitted into hospice care. He has lived with us for over three years (since a terrible car accident — and the cessation of his incessant driving) and we are determined to have him here for the rest of his life, if possible. My dad is the most wonderful man and has done so much to make his stay here not only full of love, but truly easy on me. The hospice company (Brighton) has already gone above and beyond the call of duty and provided wonderful support. Dad has joked about wanting “to take a pill so I can go be with your mom” for years. So I thought I was ready for all of this. Circle of life and all that.

Then the mail came. Or, really, it didn’t come. [click to continue…]

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Simple FHE Ideas: Spiritual Habits

The day after BYU finals ended, our entire family sat down for a family counsel. We try to have one every Sunday afternoon, but this extra meeting was called to get us jump started on a good summer.

One of the things we discussed was the desire to have good habits through the summer. Rather then let it be a time of sleeping in, general laziness, amid a frantic vacation or two and some summer camps, we’d like it to be a time of fun and continued positive progress.

Spiritual Habits

One of the most important things for us will be to keep up good habits of family night, family prayer, and family scriptures study.  [click to continue…]

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Videos of Jesus Christ – Twig of Faith

A common jab at the person who complains about something relatively trivial in the eternal scheme of things — bad service at a restaurant, annoying people at the theater, a car nice car with a flat tire, a slow internet connection — is to tag their complaint thusly:

#FirstWorldProblems

Twig of Faith

While it’s true that we would all do better to accentuate the positive and count our blessings (research soundly confirms that choosing to see the real good in the world has enormous benefits toward improved happiness), it’s also worth noting that pointing out the truth that “things could always be worse” (and it is always true) doesn’t solve problems nor does it usually help much. This is called the fallacy of relative privation.

My purpose is not to encourage the Relief Society to pass out a sign up sheet to take dinners to every family in the ward who has a hang nail — or even to indulge the negativity some constantly display — but to note that true sisterhood and brotherhood asks us to see the pain of others as real pain, even if we don’t fully understand it.  [click to continue…]

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Simple FHE Ideas: Agency and Freedom

My early adulthood made it easy believe that God was a magical genie. If I prayed hard enough and worked hard enough and had just the right amount of faith mixed in, I could do anything or have anything. (Except the ever elusive pony. That never happened.) Conversely if I didn’t get what I wanted, I just hadn’t mixed the potion carefully enough.

My late 30s taught me the opposite was true. I never became an unbeliever. I always knew God was there. Somewhere. Far, far away. (To lose that would be to lose everything.)

Agency and Freedom

I knew God cared about The Plan. His plan. But I didn’t believe he really cared about individuals. At least not all individuals. I mean how could  God always be helping Sister B find her carelessly misplaced keys, making sure an anonymous friend dropped off the exact amount of change she needed, “inspired” her about her breakfast cereal choices (and on and on) and still allow children to be abused, governments to enslave, and innocent people (even those who knew him and sincerely tried to follow him) to be irreparable harmed by evil people.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that God cares deeply, but that his plan for agency and freedom requires that he step back and let things take their course. Strangely, perhaps, my thoughts came as a result of political discussions.  [click to continue…]

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Videos of Jesus Christ – No Regrets Parenting

When Jessica was a brand new baby in 1987 I made a solemn commitment to myself. I would live each day carefully and mindfully so I could be a mother with no regrets. In 1991, when she was almost four (and had a baby sister, Belinda) I lost my temper when she broke a rule and I knew all my parenting aspirations were for nought.

No Regrets Parenting

I’m sure that in those four years I did lots of imperfect things, but that was the first time I felt I’d really bungled the motherhood thing. And it’s only gone downhill from there. Not that I haven’t had some good moments and even sparks of rare, accidental brilliance. But for the most part, I’ve been a pretty darn average parent on the scale of awful to amazing. Those teenage years can just wipe the floor with your incredible intentions. Not to mention all your own bad habits, insecurities, and general cluelessness.  [click to continue…]

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Tall Tales and Truths

Book Review: Mormons: Tall Tales and Truths by Jenni Rose Maiava

Do Mormons worship Joseph Smith? Do you work in your church for free? Can Mormons dance?

These are just a few of the questions posed in this book by Jenni Rose Maiava. The author gives simple answers to each of these questions, sometimes with a personal anecdote to illustrate. Most chapters are just a few paragraphs long, which make for very quick and easy reading.  [click to continue…]

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Simple FHE Ideas: Repentance

You may have lived through the awful, error-filled object lessons that I did in Sunday School or seminary. Here are some examples of what not to do to teach children or anyone about sin and repentance:

Simple FHE Ideas Repentance

  1. A teacher picked up a slab of wood. He drove four or five nails into the board, then turned the hammer over and pulled them out. “This is like the law of chastity. You can repent, but the holes are still there.”
  2.  A teacher took out a piece of gum, placed it in his mouth, and chewed it well. Then he took out the gum and held the was before the class. “This gum is like chastity. Who wants it now?”
  3. The teacher brings a luscious looking, decorated cake to class. He sets it on the table in front of the class with plates and forks next to it. After talking about chastity for some time he picks up a plate. All the students’ mouths start watering in anticipation of their treat. The teacher sticks his hand into the cake, grabs a handful, and smashes it on the plate. Then he holds it out to the class. “Who would like a piece?”

I suppose all these awful “analogies” are used in the hopes of scaring kids into avoiding sex at all costs (assuming, of course, that this hasn’t already been a problem for some). Of all things kids can mess around with, it’s one of the most impactful. And there a grain of truth in all that mess. When we sin, we are forever changed. We can’t turn back time and undo what we did. We can’t use the time we spent sinning for growth and service and goodness. We can’t magically make physical ills caused by addictions, repair the relationships that were ruined, cause illegitimately conceived children to be unborn and start over, or pull back all the problematic consequences of our bad behavior, we can still be clean before God.

Still, the gospel teaches us that scarlet sins can be white as snow. Not pink. Not tinted. Pure white. That is truth. Whatever baggage may stick with us from our sins as we travel through life, we can rest assured that God does not hold it over our heads, use it to smack us around, or even remember it.

We can be utterly clean before him. He will see us as we are.

Music

Hymns

Primary Songs

Scripture

[click to continue…]

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This isn’t a video about Jesus Christ. It’s actually a life insurance commercial. Yea, I know, right? But it really is one of the best videos of Jesus Christ ever, without intending to be. Because the least of these is always him.

Least of These is Him

About a decade ago I read a life changing book titled Masquerading as Angels by Lance Richardson and Bruce Miller. It was a chronicle describing a vacation taken by two families with the purpose of finding people along the way to whom they could offer service.

[click to continue…]

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Recently I was pointed to an article by V. H. Cassler (who I presume is Valerie Hudson Cassler) titled “Ruby Slippers on Her Feet: Reflections on the OrdainWomen Website.” Soon thereafter a few people asked me to comment. Well, it’s one thing to respond to a typical blog post or speech and quite another to respond to 20 pages of single spaced type. But, hey, I aim to please!

Ruby Slippers On Her Feet - Cassler

Sincerely, though, dredging through all this is going to be painful. I can feel it. And I just want you to pity me right from the start. Sometimes when I’m asked to analyze something, it’s worse than expected, but other times it turns out not to be as problematic as the rumbling seems to indicate. But this time, it’s just starting out wrong, so I hope I’m pleasantly surprised.

Here goes nothing.  [click to continue…]

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We Are Strong!

Book Review: We Are Strong! Mothers and Daughters Stand Together by Fay A. Klingler

We Are StrongThis timely and extremely applicable book cuts through the noise of the mommy wars and speaks to women in a non-discriminatory uplifting way that I found refreshing and empowering. I found the wise examples of Ellis Reynolds Shipp and Camilla Eyring Kimball extremely valuable and especially enjoyed the following from Brigham Young:

If some women had the privilege of studying they would make as good mathematicians as any man. We believe that women are useful not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, and raise babies, but that they should study law…or physics…

Fay’s frank yet nurturing syntax is apparent throughout. Her tone combined with pertinent anecdotal evidence directs the reader to inner contemplation and valuable self-assessment. The result of which can be influential in making changes that align perfectly with doctrine but are suited to each individual.  [click to continue…]

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We love General Conference so much around here. I wish we had in quarterly or more. I’ve had personal witness about how acting on prophetic and authoritative counsel can change our lives. But in spite of the fact that we look forward to it with great anticipation and make plans for a great General Conference experience, it can too easily come and go without  being as impactful as it should be.

General Conference Roundup

For the Family Home Evening after General Conference, we like to have something of a family conference roundup. It’s simple to implement, but helps make the entire experience more meaningful by helping us focus on taking action with the counsel we receive.

Preparation

As you watch conference ask each family member to look for a personal action plan. By this I mean to look for some counsel that they know will be helpful and can be acted upon. Ask each person to take a few notes on the speaker and topic so they can share their insights with the rest of the family.

Music

Hymns

Primary Songs

Scripture

[click to continue…]

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General Conference – April 2014 – Open Thread

Sorry to be slow to open the thread. Please feel free to add any thoughts about the sessions (including the General Women’s Meeting last week) here.

Enjoy conference weekend everyone!

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Sitting on the far end of the row of chairs in Sunday School — trying to avoid Bob at all costs — our teacher told the parable of the good Samaritan.

“When can you be a good Samaritan?” he asked. “When can you be kind to someone who is despised?”

Your Good Samaritan Moment

I glanced sideways down the row without turning my head. Maybe Bob would understand. Maybe he would finally get it. Maybe he would raise his hand and say:

You know, I just realized that I’ve been really unkind to Alison for the past seven years just because she’s fat. Plus red hair. Oh, and the glasses and the freckles. Plus she’s a freak. But that’s probably wrong and maybe I need to ignore all those flaws and just let her be.

That might not sound like a compliment, but that’s what I hoped for.  [click to continue…]

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